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The Otago Country Premiers face Canterbury Country in Balclutha today.
This is the final clash for the year and one the Otago Country boys will be keen to win. This is a final of sorts, with the Triangular Trophy, which Canterbury Country holds, on the line. Otago Country’s win over its Southland rival and the drawn match between Southland and Canterbury means this is a winner-takes-all clash.
Otago Country’s season has been a successful one for the most part. Wins against Southland Country, Mid Canterbury A and North Otago Development will be pleasing. A gutsy performance in the only loss to North Otago is also testament to its ability.
Today’s clash, at Balclutha at 12.30pm, will be a step up from last week’s one-point win in Oamaru. Canterbury Country is a well-drilled side, with plenty of experience across the park and Otago Country will need to continue playing its effective brand of rugby and execute it for the full 80 minutes.
Otago Country’s strength at set piece should give it a decent platform to attack Canterbury Country. Front-foot ball and continuity is key to Otago Country’s game.
It will be a unique experience for some Otago Country players, playing in front of a home crowd in Balclutha. Clutha players Kerrod Baldwin, Tyler Bichan, Robin Fesilafai and Jared Edwards will relish the opportunity to go to work in front of friends, family and clubmates alike.
Edwards looks set to miss the clash through illness, which is a shame, as he has been one of Otago Country’s best this season. Prop Tim O’Neill is another to put his hand up this season.
As captain, he leads from the front, commands respect and makes a difference on the field. Fellow veterans Aidan Winter and Craig Stanway are also key to keeping the forward momentum going.
Young Brodie Flannery looks to have the nod at first five-eighth again this week. His leadership qualities for one so young are extremely admirable. He has a strong boot and his ability to turn opposition back lines around is something special.
Otago Country’s season boils down to this game. The side will be desperate for a positive result and know that if it sticks to structures, plays for each other and performs for the full match then it is well within reach.
- Francis Parker